180913 Healthy ideas that may be worth considering for a healthier life-part one – Combining mental and physical activities to keep your cognitive abilities sharp

Healthy ideas that may be worth considering for a healthier life-part one – Combining mental and physical activities to keep your cognitive abilities sharp

Scientific research never ceases and constant investigations into what makes us healthy are no exception. Some of the recent research and subsequent reports result from observational studies. These observational studies were not designed to prove a cause and effect. Nonetheless, they still may point the way towards improving your health by decreasing your disease risk.

Some of these findings may already be common knowledge to you, whereas others may be a surprise. In any case, all of them may be worthwhile paying attention to in the future.

Combining mental and physical activities to keep your cognitive abilities sharp

If you are a health-conscious person, as many are, you are already aware that exercising both your body and mind can help keep your memories sharp as you age. A recent study out of the Mayo Clinic reinforced this synergistic mind body connection.

These researchers found that by combining mentally stimulating activities, in this case computer use, and moderate exercise, the participants decreased their odds of incurring memory loss more so than singling out either activity. The definition of moderate physical exercise, for the purposes of the study, is “brisk walking, hiking, aerobics, strength training, golfing without a golf cart, swimming, doubles tennis, yoga, martial arts, using exercise machines, and weightlifting.” They used the computer as an example of mental activity simply because it is a popular means of mental exertion used by this population sample.

In the study, researchers observed and tested 926 Minnesotans aged between 70 and 93. Each of these people completed questionnaires concerning the amount and time of their physical exercise and computer use.

The results indicated that the study participants who did not use a computer or exercise, 37.6% showed mild cognitive impairment signs and 20.1% remained cognitively normal. Of those who did both mental and physical exercise, they found that 36% were cognitively normal and only 18.3% were showing signs of cognitive impairment.

Based on the results, it certainly seems reasonable to stimulate your brain with mental activities and exercise to improve your physical health in order to provide a protective barrier for your memory during aging process.

160913 Lifting weights is associated with positive cognition and memory area changes in the brain

Lifting weights is associated with positive cognition and memory area changes in the brain

A new study, conducted by research scientists and led by Teresa Liu-Ambrose, PhD from the University of British Columbia stated, “exercise is a promising strategy for combating cognitive decline.” She pointed out that other studies have found aerobic and resistance training increase the cognitive ability in older adults and others with mild cognitive impairments. Nevertheless, she noted there is no data comparing the effectiveness of aerobic or resistance training to one another in helping seniors with mild cognitive impairment.

Not having this data makes it difficult to understand which of the two forms of exercise could be the most beneficial and according to Dr. Liu-Ambrose, “understanding this is crucial to using exercises as a strategy for altering the trajectory of cognitive decline in seniors with mild cognitive impairment.” Therefore, she and her researchers placed 86 women, aged 70 to 80, into three groups.

The groups were divided up thusly:

Group 1 trained twice a week both machines and free weights
Group 2 exercised with an outdoor walking program
Group 3 did only balance and stretching activities

Each person in the three groups was measured with the Stroop test. This is a standard cognitive test used to measure selective attention and the individual’s ability to deal with conflicting information. In the latter instance, it would mean being able to read out loud the word blue, when it is actually printed in red.

A secondary group of tests “measured the individuals working memory, associative memory, problem-solving,” “visual attention and task switching.”

The results of the six-month study found that even though the aerobic group got physically fitter and improved their balance while doing so they realized no increased cognitive benefits. However, those in the weightlifting group “significantly improved their average performance on the Stroop test and tests of associative memory.”

In fact, there were significant functional changes within the areas of the brain that were associated with cognitive and memory as noted in the MRI scans of 22 participants.

Dr. Liu concluded that the results of the study provided “novel evidence” that strength training provided the beneficial results for those individuals that were suffering mild cognitive impairment. She did caution that these results might be different when tested with men or women of a different age group.